Who likes needles? Anybody?
No, me neither
About 60% of kids are frightened of needles, and about a quarter of adults are as well. I would say that 100% of us don’t wake up in the morning excited to have chemicals inserted into our arm via a stab.
Needles hurt and it can feel really wrong to have something sharp poking into our body—we generally spend our lives avoiding sharp things penetrating our body! Of course we don’t want a vaccination! Kids neither.
And yet–vaccinations save lives. They are short term pain for very real personal and global gain.
I had a chance to talk with CTV Morning Live this morning about this:
Here’s the thing: We are wired for relationship. Kids might not like the poke–but they take their cues from the grownups in the room:
- How worried are they about their own vaccines?
- Do they parents think I will freak out?
- Why are they so worried about what my reaction will be?
We all do that, don’t we? We read off of other people what mood they are in to tell us how we should perceive a situation. Without consciously making choices, we choose our reactions when we see how other people are reacting.
I was in an airplane waiting for take off and smoke (actual smoke!) started wafting out of the ventilation system–gently and slowly. It hung above the passengers two or three inches from the ceiling, and then as more smoke came in, it increased to 4-6 inches. We looked around at each other–no one else was panicking, so I didn’t either. We shrugged at each other–what to do.
A few rows ahead of me, I saw a hand go up to push the flight attendant button. A few seconds later, a flight attendant poked her head in–and GASPED! She ran out, and ran back in.
She taught us to be alarmed in a way that our fellow passengers had not.
Our little kids will take their cues from us around vaccines–as they take their cues from us on everything else.
Did I mention that we are wired for connection?
A study was done about a year ago in Toronto with about 760 little 4 and 5 year olds and watched the impact of comfort on their distress around vaccines.
What they found is that encouraging remarks like, “You’ve got this. It will feel better soon” actually increased a child’s distress in the first minute—but when those encouraging and supportive things were said in the second minute after a vaccine— they really helped.
The study didn’t say why that was, but I think I get it. If someone tells me right after I bang my knee into the corner of the bed and I am gasping in pain and encourages me that I will be fine, I’m likely to yell at them. Because NO, I don’t “got this”, and the fact that I will feel better soon is of absolutely zero comfort to me as I am in acute distress.
Encouraging remarks in the middle of the worst has the effect of minimizing actual pain–and minimizes a person’s experience.
Once the worst of it is over, then I value people coming alongside to comfort and encourage.
In the worst moment of pain, I likely best need a silent, respectful, and caring witness.
Pollyannas not welcome.
I think the children’s reactions just remind us what is true for all of us.
The study also went on to say that saying shaming things like, “Don’t act like a baby” “There’s no reason to cry” generally increased distress.
A good reminder for the rest of us on that one too.
Telling people to not feel their feelings or trying to talk them out of a reaction by judging it has never been successful for anybody.
It’s a wonderful season when the smallest amongst us can have greater protection against a potentially serious virus.
I’m grateful for how their fear and need for comfort during the vaccination process reminded me all over again how to take care of others during times of pain and fear.